I was recently introduced to Indian lemon chutney by my cooking teacher Farida. I had never had it before and fell in love with its sweet and sour flavor. It is almost a lemon jam and quite addictive. Be sure to use thin-skinned lemons. As you cook the chutney it will seem excessively bitter and the peel will be a bit chewy. Let the chutney age in the refrigerator for about 3-4 weeks before consuming. The lemon peel will soften, sweeten and becomes less pungent. It would make a nice savory homemade Christmas gift for neighbors and friends. Serve it alongside chicken, fish, potato, or bean dishes. It is very good with eggs and green vegetables, too.
Indian Lemon Chutney
4 medium thin-skinned lemons, scrubbed
water to cover fruit, plus 1/3 cup of water to add along with the sugar when cooking the chopped lemon
2-3 teaspoons canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
Scrub lemons and slice stem end off slightly but not enough to expose the pulp. Place whole lemons in a 4-quart pot. Cover fruit with cold water. Place a lid on the pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat to medium low, partially cover and simmer until the lemon peel has softened but is not mushy and falling apart. It should take 15-20 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the lemons. Use a slotted spoon to gently remove the lemons onto a cutting board. Be careful that the lemons do not burst when you remove them from the pot. Do not prick with a fork to check for doneness. Let the lemons cool for 5-10 minutes or until they are cool enough to handle. Slice lemons in half lengthwise, then each half into four lengthwise slices so you have 8 long slices. Remove the seeds and some of the white membrane, then dice the lemon slices, both peel and pulp, into small bite-size pieces. You should have roughly 2-1/2 cups of chopped lemon. Pour canola oil into 2-quart saucepan. Turn the burner on to medium heat. When oil is hot but not smoking add mustard seeds to the oil. Cover quickly and shake the pan and heat just until the mustard seeds begin to pop and have become fragrant. This should only take 20 seconds or so. Be careful not to burn them. Immediately add the diced lemon and pulp to the mustard seeds and stir to mix. Add salt, cayenne, turmeric, brown sugar, and 1/3 cup water. Mix well. Turn heat to medium low, bring to a boil, then simmer the lemon mixture for 15-20 minutes, stirring often until the mixture has darkened slightly, the liquid has turned into a slightly thicker syrup, and you have a very loose jam. You do not want to cook it too long since it will thicken as it cools. Pour into jars. Screw the lids on and keep it in the refrigerator. The lemon peel will continue to soften and sweeten as it sits in the refrigerator, so wait about 3-4 weeks for it to age before consuming. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least two months. Makes 2-1/2 cups.
Indian Lemon Chutney